Artist & Scientist | Sleep & Dreaming


Sleep is an open field of vast and infinite potential. Each night we are taken into an altered state of consciousness with only fleeting memories of our time there remaining in the morning, unable to discern what was real. Sandra Huber writes in Assembling the Morrow: “Sleep is its own present, where a third of our lives is lived. It is not a given that we sleep because we wake, for all we know, we may have to wake because we sleep.” When we examine sleep to uncover it’s function, or to investigate the dreams it shows us, we are interfacing with sleep as a waking observer. In sleep research, this sometimes takes the form of asking participants as they transition from sleep to wake: what were you just dreaming about? We hope that the temporal proximity to sleep will allow us to grasp at sleep as participants are shifting between worlds. But is there a way to interface with the sleeping brain directly? Research has shown us two such openings: sound and smell. Hypnokinesis is an interactive installation that investigates the myriad of ways in which sleep and dreaming can be induced, enhanced, and modulated through sound.

Incorporating and adapting methods used in the sleep lab, Hypnokinesis becomes a site where participants can experience sleep and wake’s respective realities shift and interlace through personal experimentation. Participants are invited to enter an enclosed space one at a time which contains a bed and a touchscreen control panel, giving them the opportunity to sleep and experience the sleep modulations first-hand through headphones. These modulations are divided into four categories: methods to deepen sleep, to manipulate dream content, to induce lucid dreaming, and to reactivate memories (recording their own memories through a microphone). Participants are also invited to observe their own experiences as a researcher and document them in a shared log book. An adjacent space set up as a mirror reflection (replacing the bed with a couch) also invites participants to explore the modulations during sleep’s reference point, wake.

The article Upgrading the sleeping brain with targeted memory reactivation by Delphine Oudiette and Ken A. Paller (2013) was an invaluable resource in developing this exhibition.